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Congressman Rohrabacher votes for H.R. 1

Nov 24, 2003
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Washington, Nov 24, 2003 - Rohrabacher cuts deal on Medicare
O.C. congressman had opposed subsidy to hospitals to treat illegal immigrants.

By DENA BUNIS
The Orange County Register


 

WASHINGTON - As Rep. Dana Rohrabacher tells it, it was sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. Saturday when House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a group of his lieutenants swarmed around him in an effort to get his vote on the Medicare bill.

The bill was going down. Rohrabacher, who had voted in favor of the original prescription-drug bill, had made it clear that there was one provision in the new bill he couldn't abide. So he intended to vote no. He'd been lobbied for days. A group in favor of the bill had even run TV ads in his district urging constituents to thank Rohrabacher for his support for a Medicare drug benefit.

"I had people calling me," Rohrabacher said. "I had to tell them I was voting no."

On the House floor, 25 Republicans had already voted no. The leaders turned to Rohrabacher.

"The speaker had his hand on my shoulder," Rohrabacher said. Majority Leader Tom "DeLay had me by the elbow."

But Rohrabacher vehemently opposed a $1 billion provision that would reimburse border hospitals for treating illegal immigrants.

"I said I can't vote to dramatically increase the amount of money the federal government is spending on illegal immigration," the Huntington Beach Republican said.

But the GOP leaders told him they couldn't remove it from the bill at that point. They asked him what he needed to vote yes.

So, Rohrabacher said, he struck a deal.

Hastert agreed to allow him to put a provision into the giant spending bill slated to be voted on before Congress recesses, or to get a separate bill to the floor next year. The provision would require hospitals to give the Border Patrol the name of any illegal immigrant they treated within two hours of treatment.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the author of the reimbursement provision, could not be reached to comment Saturday. Rohrabacher said he had talked to Kyl about the provision on Friday but the senator refused to budge.

Rohrabacher said "there's a risk" that his provision won't survive a floor vote in the House or a vote in the Senate. "But at least this gives us an opportunity to do some good out of a bad situation."

With the speaker's promise, Rohrabacher voted for the bill. Three hours later, it passed.